The following guest post is from Chris Robb, president of Templeton Elementary's PTO. In it, Chris explains to the Indiana Charter School Board (firstname.lastname@example.org) why he opposes the Seven Oaks charter application. The deadline for public comment is midnight, Tuesday, May 5.
My name is Chris Robb. I have a daughter in 2nd grade at Templeton Elementary School in Bloomington. I also serve as president of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization. I have followed the discussion on the Seven Oaks charter application with great interest. I’m writing to share my concerns over the proposal and explain why I think it’s damaging to our community.
Templeton is a greatly disadvantaged school in terms of it’s student makeup. Over the past decade, the percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch has grown from 30% to 75% in 2014-15. The school was (unfairly in my opinion) labeled as an “F” school in 2012-13, yet rebounded to an “A” school for the last two years. Our principal, Mr. Carver, has been aggressive in his push to improve the learning experience for the students and lobbied to have Templeton included in the International Baccalaureate pilot that MCCSC is undergoing with Childs Elementary and University Elementary.
I know firsthand that there were many eyebrows raised in the community at Templeton being included with two of Bloomington’s more economically advantaged school districts. However, it gave the students, teachers, and parents something to be proud of. The takeaway here is that the school is doing terrific things with the resources it has available. The teachers and administration both care deeply about the students. Despite their overall economic disadvantage the students have risen to the challenges placed before them.
Templeton is not a unique story in Bloomington. There are many schools with similar compositions that are making great strides every day. I won’t claim that everything is perfect, but things rarely are. In Bloomington, involved parents love their schools and are generally happy with them, despite the letter grade the state assigns them. More importantly, involved parents love the fact that their schools are providing a quality education for all of Bloomington’s youth, regardless of their home situation. We know that an educated citizen is a more engaged citizen. As the recent passage of the school referendum demonstrated, Bloomington values educated students.
I understand that the addition of the Seven Oaks charter school will potentially remove $2.5 million in funding that would otherwise go to the schools I describe above. Make no mistake, this reduction will place an even greater strain on those schools that are struggling to fill the educational gap our disadvantaged students are seeing at home. It’s important that there’s funding for additional reading assistance, after school programs, extracurricular activities and afternoon snacks. Too often, we see the teachers filling that gap through additional hours or money out of their own pockets. Frankly, it’s offensive that we would consider moving even more funding out of a system that is already strained.
Further, I’d expect that the students who would elect to go to Seven Oaks are coming from families that have the time to spend with their kids in the evenings and support their growth at home. This should be evident by the lack of supplied transportation for the students. Low-wage parents that have little schedule flexibility will find themselves challenged to utilize Seven Oaks facilities. This further erodes the shared culture of education at MCCSC's public schools and moves the high-performing and well-supported students into a consolidated location. That may work well for them, but it will hurt those left behind at the struggling schools. The best environment I can envision for my child is one that has an even distribution of student performance. In areas where she needs help, she has her peers to lean on. In areas where she excels, she pushes them.
Templeton’s IB learner profile this month is based around “balance”. The students are learning why it’s important to have “balance" between learning time and fun time, happy time and sad time, active time and resting time. But “balance” is important at a district-wide level, too. Please don’t throw it off by siphoning funding and students into Seven Oaks. I urge you to reject their proposal.
Templeton Elementary Parent